WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--National memorial ceremonies and policy events are being held in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Congress, to recognize Laotian and Hmong veterans of the U.S. "Secret Army” who served in Laos during the Vietnam War. The events also honor the veterans’ American advisors.
“Today, a wreath of white lilies is being placed at the Vietnam War memorial to remember and honor the veterans and their families,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA).
“It is important to remember that Laotian and Hmong special forces who served in the ‘U.S. Secret Army’ during the Vietnam War were backed by the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who operated covertly in Laos during the conflict to combat invading, Soviet-backed, North Vietnamese Army forces and communist guerillas,” Smith observed.
On May 10, and today, Lao and Hmong memorial ceremonies were held in Arlington National Cemetery.
“A U.S. Joint Armed Services honor guard, wreath-bearer and Army bugler are officially participating in the Arlington ceremonies to help us honor the Laotian and Hmong veterans and their American advisors who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI).
“Now, in the U.S. Congress, Representative Jim Costa (D-California),
Senator Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska), and a bipartisan coalition, are
advancing legislation that, if enacted, will grant important burial
honors, and benefits, to our veterans at national cemeteries,” Vang
“Today, flowers and prayers are again being offered at the Lao Veterans
of America (LVA) monument in Arlington to remember those who sacrificed
and died in Laos, including thousands of Laotian and Hmong civilians
killed by invading North Vietnamese and Lao communist forces during the
war and its aftermath, as well as in recent years,” Smith continued.
Cherzong Vang, former President of the Minnesota LVAI, is also being eulogized.
“We are here today because there is a place to which we can come to remember and to celebrate those who gave their lives for freedom, and their people, and for this country,” said John W. Barnum, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Vietnam War Memorial adviser. Barnum serves with McGuireWoods, LLP.
“...I would stress to those in the Congress and the Department of the Army, who will decide who may be buried here, that we, the survivors, owe it to those who did not survive a place where we can all celebrate their sacrifices...,” Barnum stated, reflecting on the Lao-Hmong veterans’ monument and his experiences as a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War.
“The tradition of these gatherings to salute Lao and Hmong veterans and their American advisors, is an important exercise, reminding the American people of that struggle...,” stated Edmund McWilliams, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer (US-FSO), Laos. “While the struggle is increasingly shadowed by time, the sacrifice of those who participated continues to illuminate their heroic efforts. This occasion thus affords an opportunity to remind the American people that, that now long ago struggle, was a joint effort that united soldiers of vastly different cultures in a common enterprise to protect freedom.”
“I wish to send my sincere congratulations to all Lao and Hmong veterans who are now gathering at Arlington National Cemetery to celebrate the memory of our service together in a common cause,” stated Hugh Tovar, former CIA Chief of Station, Laos. “They will always live in our thoughts and recollections of the days when we served together...”
The Arlington events are cosponsored by the LVAI, CPPA, LVA, Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, Members of Congress, Counterparts, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, and the United League for Democracy in Laos.
Speakers, participants, and those providing statements at Arlington include: Wangyee Vang, LVAI; Philip Smith, CPPA; Grant McClure, Counterparts; Michael Benge, former US-FSO and POW/MIA in Vietnam; Congressman Jim Costa; Senator Lisa Murkowski; Captain Christopher Bala, US Army; John Barnum, McGuireWoods, LLP; Hugh Tovar, CIA-Ret.; Edmund McWilliams, US-FSO; Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt; Captain D.L. Pappy Hicks, U.S. Special Forces Association; and, others.